After America, Breitbart Plans To Infect Politics Across Europe

››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

After the 2016 election, Breitbart.com announced its plan to expand into France and Germany, and Italy is reportedly now a target as well. Breitbart’s current European bureau, Breitbart London, appears to be in charge of the website’s Europe content and has a close relationship with the nativist UK Independence Party (UKIP). That, coupled with its anti-immigrant content, suggests that the site will try to spread its nativism across Europe by continuing to stoke racist sentiment and allying with anti-immigrant political parties.

Breitbart London
Breitbart France
Breitbart Germany

Breitbart Announces Plans For European Expansion

CNNMoney: “Breitbart To Expand Into US, Europe After Trump Victory.” CNNMoney’s Dylan Byers reported that in addition to expanding its American presence, Breitbart “will launch new websites in Germany and France, countries where right-wing, anti-immigrant parties -- Alternative for Germany and National Front, respectively -- have made major political strides in recent years.” The article noted that Breitbart already “has staff in London and Jerusalem.” From the November 9 article:

Breitbart News Network, the right-wing populist news organization that played an integral role in Donald Trump's presidential campaign, will expand its operation in the United States and open new bureaus in Europe, its editor-in-chief said Wednesday.

The expansion, first reported by Reuters, had been in the works for a long time, sources at the organization had told CNNMoney. But in the wake of Trump's historic victory, and in the wake of Brexit, their ambitions have taken on new significance.

Breitbart, which already has staff in London and Jerusalem, will launch new websites in Germany and France, countries where right-wing, anti-immigrant parties -- Alternative for Germany and National Front, respectively -- have made major political strides in recent years.

[...]

"The core principles that drive Breitbart seem to be gaining popularity," Alex Marlow, the site's editor-in-chief, told CNNMoney in October. "There is a movement." [CNNMoney, 11/9/16]

Breitbart Editor Says France And Germany Expansion Is To Serve “The Same Readers Who Had Been Ignored” In The U.K. And U.S. The New York Times quoted Breitbart editor-in-chief Alex Marlow saying that Breitbart’s expansion to France and Germany was related to the elections there and that it aims to serve “an underserved readership” that he contends include “the same readers who had been ignored in Britain and had been ignored in the United States.” [The New York Times, 11/13/16]

Breitbart Plans To Expand To Italy As Well. On January 23, BuzzFeed reported that “Breitbart News is set to expand its presence in Italy.” While the expansion plans “do not currently include an Italian-language version of the website,” Breitbart “is planning to add reporters to its bureau in [Rome],” ahead of possible Italian elections and amid poor economic conditions:

Breitbart News is set to expand its presence in Italy, BuzzFeed News has learned. The alt-right platform, which has one full-time journalist in Rome, is planning to add reporters to its bureau in the Italian capital.

The decision to boost operations in Rome comes following plans to open bureaus in Germany and France, a sign that Breitbart is increasingly turning its focus to Europe. However, its upcoming expansion plans do not currently include an Italian-language version of the website.

[...]

Breitbart’s expansion in Europe is likely to make a number of countries nervous. Elections are due in France and Germany (and probably in Italy, too) this year, and campaign issues such as immigration, the refugee crisis, security, and debates about national identity are set to feature prominently.

[...]

Breitbart’s expansion in Italy comes at a time when the country’s economy is failing to gain traction, and trust in traditional parties and media is lower than elsewhere in Europe. [BuzzFeed, 1/23/17]

To Date, Breitbart London Has Been Pushing Breitbart’s Content On Europe

Breitbart London Is Producing Breitbart’s France Content Until The French Office Opens. Radio London, a French website, reported that, at least until Breitbart opens an office in France, they will “do reproduction of writing from London, with a dozen journalists, content produced in French” for the French audience, and then “translated into English for their American audience.” [Radio London, 7/6/16]

Breitbart Publishes Content About France And Germany On Its “Breitbart London” Site. Breitbart articles concerning France and Germany are frequently published under the Breitbart London label. [Breitbart London, 5/5/16; 6/3/16; 9/1/16; 9/8/16; 9/21/16; 11/9/16; 12/20/16; 1/8/17]

Breitbart London Regularly Trafficks In Anti-Immigrant Sentiment That Caters To Racist Audiences

Breitbart London Published A Story About A “Mob” Of 1,000 Muslims Burning A Church That Was Almost Entirely False. On January 3, Breitbart London reported that “a mob of more than 1,000 men chanted ‘Allahu Akhbar’, launched fireworks at police, and set fire to a historic church” in Dortmund, Germany, on New Year’s Eve. The facts showed that almost everything Breitbart reported was untrue: The “1,000-man mob” was a crowd of New Year’s Eve revelers, some of whom set off celebratory fireworks, one of which started a fire on church scaffolding which was quickly extinguished. Even though the story fell apart, Breitbart London and their editor-in-chief Raheem Kassam continued to stand by it, with Kassam tweeting "Actually I commissioned and approved this story. And we are right." [Media Matters, 1/6/17; 1/9/17, 1/8/17]

Breitbart London Features A “Migrant Sex Attacks” Tag. Breitbart London regularly uses the tag “migrant sex attacks” for content about rapes and murders which they assume are committed by migrants in Europe. [Breitbart, accessed 1/10/17]

Breitbart London Headlines Are Often Islamophobic And Anti-Immigrant. Breitbart London headlines include “Arabic Translator: Muslims Migrants Secretly Hate Christians, Seek To Outbreed Them,” “Report: Ghettoised UK Muslims Believe Britain 75 Per Cent Islamic,” “Segregated Muslim March Shuts Down Central London,” “BBC To Air ‘Muslim Big Brother’ Show Featuring Islamic State Defender,” and “Muslims In Italy: ‘Give Us Back Our Mosques Or We Will Pray To Allah In The Vatican.’” [Breitbart London, 12/4/16; 10/13/16; 12/4/16; 11/10/16; 11/16/16]

Breitbart London Is Closely Tied To UKIP And Aims To Support Nativist, Anti-Immigrant Politics

Breitbart London Is Run By Raheem Kassam, A Longtime Aide To UKIP Leader Nigel Farage. Raheem Kassam, editor-in-chief of Breitbart London, spent many years as an aide to former UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage. According to the New Statesman, aside from various roles in Farage’s orbit, Kassam’s “only other substantial jobs have been in the right-wing blogosphere.” Kassam also made a short-lived bid to succeed Farage as UKIP leader; the New Statesman reported that Kassam was Farage’s “preferred choice” and that he had secured the financial backing of Arron Banks, UKIP’s “megadonor.” [New Statesman, 10/25/16; Breitbart, accessed 1/10/17]

Farage And UKIP Support Banning All Immigration, And The Party Has Been Denounced For Pushing “Open, Explicit Racism.” Media have repeatedly accused UKIP of promoting racism and anti-immigrant sentiments in its campaigns. In 2014, Nigel Farage proposed a “five-year ban on immigrants settling in [the] UK,” as well as another five-year ban on immigrants “claiming benefits” from the government when they arrive. In 2015, Farage said British employers should be allowed to discriminate against immigrants, and a Telegraph columnist labeled his comments as “open, explicit racism.” During the Brexit campaign, UKIP was denounced for creating a pro-”Leave” advertisement displaying a crowd of refugees with the text “BREAKING POINT,” which many said resembled propaganda from Nazi Germany. Farage was recently hired by Fox News to be an on-air contributor. [The Guardian, 1/7/14; 6/16/16; The Telegraph, 3/12/15; 3/12/15; The Washington Post, 6/16/16; The New York Times, 1/20/17]

[Twitter, 6/16/16]

Farage Is A Regular Writer For Breitbart London. Farage has been writing for Breitbart London on a semi-regular basis since June 11, 2015, predominantly about Brexit and praise for Donald Trump. He has also made at least three appearances on Breitbart’s SiriusXM radio show Breitbart News Daily, including a victory lap after the Brexit vote. [Breitbart London, accessed 1/10/17; Soundcloud, 6/24/16; 9/1/16; 11/17/16]

Breitbart London’s Purpose Is To Unite “Anti-Establishment Sentiment Across The West And Elect Right-Wing Candidates.” Foreign Policy reported on January 4 that Alex Marlow said Breitbart was motivated to expand by “business goals … but also political ones,” as the magazine put it, primarily by “helping unite anti-immigrant, anti-establishment sentiment across the West and elect right-wing candidates.” [Foreign Policy, 1/4/17]

Bannon Allegedly “Long Wanted” To Work With Nativist European Political Parties, But “Now Has The Power Of The White House To Do It.” A November 13 profile of Breitbart chairman Stephen Bannon in The Daily Beast reported that Bannon has “an affinity for the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), Alternative for Germany (AfD), and the Party for Freedom Party (PVV) in the Netherlands, all of which have earned glowing coverage on the pages of Breitbart,” and that Breitbart “has plans to expand in France and Germany with new bureaus to cultivate and promote the populist-nationalist lines there.” The piece also quoted “a source close to Bannon” that Bannon “long wanted to work with all of those parties, but that was only in promoting them with Breitbart. Now he has the power of the White House to do it.” [The Daily Beast, 11/13/16]

Breitbart France Will Take Advantage Of Struggles Of French Newspapers And Support Far-Right National Front Party

French Mainstream Media Have Had Multiple Recent Struggles. Politiico.eu reported on August 26 that “in France, domestic newspapers are struggling, which may leave a gap for an agressive newcomer such as Breitbart to exploit a growing anti-establishment mood among voters.” According to the Nieman Journalism Lab, the French media landscape is experiencing a “fight” for relevancy “between legacy and born-digital media,” complicated by the involvement of algorithm-driven sharing. The Guardian reported in 2014 that French newspapers were “in serious trouble” related to the challenges of the internet age, their owners’ conflict of interest problems, political scandals, and more. [Politico.eu, 8/26/16; Nieman Journalism Lab, 12/19/16; The Guardian, 9/24/14; RFI, 2/13/15]

Rightward Shift Of French Society May Leave “A Market” For Breitbart To Fill. Politico.eu quoted Arnaud Mercier, a communications professor at the French Press Institute, saying, “Given how French society has shifted rightward … there is a definitely a market for more ideologically themed reporting” that Breitbart could fill. [Politico.eu, 8/26/16]

Breitbart Supports Marine Le Pen And The National Front. Breitbart’s website is filled with articles supporting the National Front (FN), France’s most prominent far-right political party, its leader, Marine Le Pen, and her niece, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen. Stephen Bannon is on record as describing Marion Le Pen as “a true rising star.” [Breitbart, accessed 1/9/17; Radio London, 6/6/16]

National Front Has Been Described As An “Authoritarian, Nationalist, Anti-Immigrant” Party. National Front is commonly understood as having “shrouded racism in the language of ‘self-determination’,” according to The Nation, and, according to The Independent, espousing “authoritarian, nationalist, anti-immigrant and anti-European rhetoric.” The Telegraph noted that National Front began life as “a dubious protest party of xenophobes, anti-Semites and die-hard fascists,” and that while the modern party still employs “Europe, immigrants and scroungers” as its “usual scapegoats ...the tone has softened and other villains added – including finance and free marketeers.” [The Nation, 8/5/16; The Independent, 3/1/15; The Telegraph, 3/21/15]

Marine Le Pen Stood Trial For “Inciting Religious Hatred.” In October 2015, The New York Times reported that Le Pen was put on trial for “charges that she incited religious hatred against Muslims,” charges that came from a 2010 appearance for National Front in which she characterized all immigration as an “occupation” of ethnically French lands. Le Pen was acquitted of the charges in December 2015, after managing to make the trial “a full-throated platform for her views.” [The New York Times, 10/21/15; 12/16/15]

Marine And Marion Le Pen Congratulated Trump On Winning The Presidency. TheJournal.ie quoted Marine Le Pen as welcoming Trump’s presidential victory, noting that his win signaled the “building of a new world.” Le Pen’s niece also supported Trump’s victory while welcoming Breitbart’s expansion into France, saying, “All alternative media are generally positive. Donald Trump is the demonstration of that.” [TheJournal.ie, 11/20/16]

Marion Le Pen Accepted An Alleged Invitation From Bannon To “Work Together.” Le Pen also took to Twitter to accept an alleged “invitation of Stephen Bannon … to work together.” The Trump campaign denied reaching out to Le Pen. 

[Twitter, 11/12/16, 11/12/16]

Marine Le Pen Visited Trump Tower To Meet A Trump “Fixer.” On January 12, Marine Le Pen was spotted visiting Trump Tower in New York City. The Guardian quoted George Lombardi, a self-styled “fixer for Trump on behalf of rightwing candidates and politicians who wanted to meet the president-elect,” as saying Le Pen was there for a “private encounter” with friends. Lombardi is also Trump’s downstairs neighbor in Trump Tower, as well as the co-founder of Citizens for Trump, a pro-Trump Facebook page. Lombardi told The Daily Beast by phone that he “let incoming White House senior counselor Steve Bannon know about the visit before it happened.” When pressed for detail, Lombardi said that “‘[Bannon] said more but I can’t tell you what he said. Let’s just say it was positive.’” Lombardi also claimed that when he had previously mentioned to Trump the possibility of meeting Le Pen, Trump said to let him know when she was in the United States. [The Guardian, 1/12/17; Politico.eu, 12/5/16; The Daily Beast, 1/12/17]

Breitbart Germany Will Take Advantage Of Waning Trust In German Media To Support Far-Right Alternative For Germany Party

German Mainstream Media Is Struggling Against Accusations Of Pro-Refugee Bias. According to Foreign Policy, German mainstream media outlets have drawn criticism for their coverage of the country’s “ongoing migration crisis.” It reported, for instance, that when “thousands of women reported that they were sexually assaulted and robbed at Cologne’s central train station on New Year’s eve in 2015/2016 by a mob of young immigrant men … some national media appeared to ignore the story at first and expressed reluctance to report that asylum-seekers were involved.” And when the Berlin Christmas market was attacked, “CNN was faster to go live (by about an hour) and quicker to link the attack to terrorism” than German media was. German broadcasters “argued they were waiting to gather basic facts” instead of “air[ing] pure speculation,” but “it appeared to be further right-wing ammunition” to claim media bias in support of migrants. [Foreign Policy, 1/4/17]

German Mainstream Media Have Drawn Accusations Of Having “Cozy” Relationships With Politicians. Foreign Policy magazine reported that German media have a “widely accepted” practice of “quote authorization, where interview partners agree to speak only on the condition that they approve their quotes after the fact.” This common practice sometimes leads to “interviews [being] altered significantly” by the interviewee or press attaché. PRI in 2012 quoted Hendrik Zoerner, then press spokesman for the German Association of Journalists, as saying that quote authorization is “bad for the quality of journalism.” PRI also noted analysts finding that German reporters often “have a difficult time getting documents from officials,” leading to at least one call to add freedom of information to the German constitution. These factors and others combine to make the appearance of a “relationship between politicians and the media” that is “rather cozy.” [Foreign Policy, 1/4/17; PRI, 1/7/12]

Breitbart Supports Alternative For Germany Party. Breitbart’s website is already heavily populated with articles supporting Alternative for Germany (AfD,) a far-right, anti-immigrant, nativist political party in Germany. Many of Breitbart’s AfD articles focus on protests against Chancellor Angela Merkel, how her “migration policy led to defeat” in elections, alleged “left-wing extremist violence” against AfD members, and AfD’s growing electoral successes. [Breitbart, accessed 1/10/17; Politico, 12/21/16]

Frauke Petry, An AfD Leader, Advocated For The Rehabilitation Of A “Nazi Race Term.” The Times of Israel reported on September 12 that Frauke Petry, a co-chair of AfD, said in an interview that the word “völkisch,” described by the Times as a “Nazi race term,” should have “‘a positive connotation.’” “Völkisch” was a word “frequently used by the Nazis” for “people who belong to a particular race.” The editorial board of Neue Westfaelische, a German daily newspaper, excoriated Petry’s “disgusting” comments. [Times of Israel, 9/12/16]

A Leaked AfD Draft “Manifesto” Contained Nazi Policy Proposals. The Independent reported on March 18, 2016, that “a leaked election manifesto” showed that AfD promoted policies such as giving “financial incentives” to German families with children in order to reverse population decline, and the idea that “therapy-resistant alcoholics, drug addicts and psychologically ill perpetrators should not be kept in psychiatric hospitals but be put under lock and key.” Nazi Germany financially incentivized German families to produce more children, and targeted drug addicts and alcoholics for persecution. According to The Independent, the AfD manifesto even included a proposal to “end what it describes as the ‘current limitation’ of history teaching to ‘the period of National Socialism’” in Germany.” [The Independent, 3/18/16; US Holocaust Memorial Museum, accessed 1/11/17; 1/11/17; New York Review of Books, 6/23/11]

Breitbart Frequently Sanitizes AfD’s Nativism By Calling The Party “Anti-Mass Migration.” Instead of noting AfD’s nativist tendencies, Breitbart frequently frames the party not as racist or nativist, but simply as “anti-mass migration.” [Breitbart London, 5/3/16; 6/7/16; 7/27/16; 9/7/16; 9/22/16; 9/25/16; 11/16/16

Petry Congratulated Trump On Winning, Heralded Opportunity To “Change … The World.” Frauke Petry tweeted on election night, “Congratulations to the future President of the United States of America, Donald Trump.” The tweet was accompanied by an image of Trump, with text, according to Breitbart, saying “this night changes the USA, Europe and the world!” 

[Twitter, 11/9/16; Breitbart London, 11/9/16]

AfD Lauded Breitbart Expanding To Germany. An AfD Twitter account said the news that Breitbart was coming to Germany was “fantastic,” and that it would be “an earthquake in our encrusted media landscape,” according to a Twitter-provided translation:

[Twitter, 11/10/16]

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